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1. pugs of the frozen north: ten things I learned on book tour

I've done lots of events in the past, but last week was the first time I've ever gone on an Official Book Tour! Here are ten things I learned, while travelling around the country telling people about Pugs of the Frozen North with my co-author, Philip Reeve.

1. Touring turns me into an incurable fantasist: When Philip and I talked with kids enough about our 'Refrigerated Pug Bus', it almost feels like we were really touring in one. Our bus had a huge yellow ribbon painted down the side with 66 pugs tumbling along it, and a giant rotating pug sculpture on top of the bus. Sadly we didn't manage to take any photos of it.

2. People who love pugs REALLY LOVE PUGS: It's not like other animals, the Pug Love is completely obsessive and since pugs are great little animals, the love is well deserved.

Fabulous pug owner at Simply Books, Bramhall (near Manchester), super pug fan at Cheltenham Lit Fest

3. Anyone can draw a pug: Some of the best pugs were drawn by people who said they couldn't draw, and some of the really wonky ones were the best and most characterful. (If you want to learn how to draw - or knit! - a pug, click over to my website.)

4. Most of the real work happened before we even arrived at the school: The most eager, attentive, involved children were (rather unsurprisingly) the ones who had already read the book. But even kids who just knew who we were and had been given a bit of buildup by their teachers before the event got way more out of the visit than the kids who had no idea who Philip and I were. We had wonderful audiences except at one school where even a teacher at the end of the event said, 'So... are you the ones who wrote and illustrated this book?' (The book itself and the poster with our book covers, and everything we'd been saying for the past hour hadn't been a clue.) And the same went with book sales: way more kids were able to get excited and take home a book to read when they had pre-ordered books, assisted by our fab booksellers who came along with us. (Kids almost never remember to bring book money on the day and then feel gutted they can't have a book.) There's something very exciting about meeting authors and then immediately being able to go away and read their book, a dedicated and signed copy that they might treasure for a lifetime.

5. I can't get any other work done on tour: I brought along all these other projects - character development for a new book, a magazine article that needs writing, I was going to blog each evening - but with early morning starts, and rolling back from dinner at 11pm or later, all I could do was wash my tights and flop onto the bed, hopefully not forgetting to set my alarm clock.

(The bits where we get to hang out with pugs is more energising than tiring, actually.)

6. Being tired makes me really stupid, and I love my publicists: I had a Frankfurt Book Fair deadline right before the tour and was staying up until 3am to finish artwork. So by the time I went on tour, I was already tired and the first thing I did was have a massive panic that I'd forgotten to pack my yellow costume skirt. After getting my kind next-door neighbour to agree to go upstairs and send it to me courier, I realised I'd rolled it into a tiny ball and stored it in my handbag, and just forgotten to check there. I felt like such an idiot diva. Having a publicist there meant I could focus all my energy and brainpower on the events and the kids, and Philip and I were able to do more events than I would have been able to do in a day I'd organised all by myself. I've been so busy with book deadlines that I haven't been able to take on hardly any school events this year, but with the publicists stacking them all up together for one tour, I was able to hit loads of schools at one go. By the end of each day I was practically jibbering and the pubicists were very patient.

A constant stream of pugs requires the occasional chihuahua break. Publicist Alesha Bonser was very accommodating.

7. I should have made sure my costume had room for expansion: I could have ordered salads every night at the restaurants. But at the end of an exhausting day of school events and travel, I always thought, I deserve this burger/pizza/etc.) Also any cake offered mid-day, like anyone's really going to turn down cake or a biscuit after running around in front of 300 kids. Book tours don't come with a personal trainer and I was bursting out of my dress. Philip and I had a No Pudding Pact, which turned into a No Chip Pact and neither resolution lasted very long.

Home-baked pug biscuits at Simply Books bookshop; publicist Liz Scott with knitted pug 'the pug made me order it'; Bath dinner with Andy Mulligan, Simon Mason, JAKe, Robin Stephens, festival organiser John McLay, Harriet Venn, publicist Alesha Bonser, Philip; and girfan (@MrsHirez) makes the world's best brownies, as seen on the train from Bath to Cheltenham

8. Book tours are awesome: I never could have organised that many visits on my own or met that many people, and Philip and I got better and better at our stage show as we practiced it several times a day. We live far apart, so often the first time we do a show at a big festival, we haven't rehearsed it even once. But after awhile, we start figuring out which activities are a bit cringe-y and which lines get a good laugh. And we get little ukulele blisters on our fingers, which makes us feel like proper musicians, even if we're not.

9. A book tour ends with a huge list of people to thank: Big thanks to Oxford University Press for sending us out! To Liz Scott for all the overall organising and meeting us for the Manchester leg of the tour, Sarah Howells and Karin Andre for the midlands, Hattie Bayly for Essex and Cheltenham, and Alesha Bonser for Essex and Bath, Phil Perry working in the background, and my husband Stuart, for putting up with my packing frenzy and having a lovely hot dinner when I returned.

Huge thanks to Sue & Andrew and their team at Simply Books (including their Knit & Natter team who knitted all the pugs!), Sheryl at Chorleywood Bookshop, Ros with Federation of Children's Book Groups, and Caroline at Just Imagine, and Peters Books Showroom, Earls High School, Stockport Grammar School, Greenbank Prep School, Olive Hill Primary School, Newfield Park Primary School, Butler's Court School, Pinkwell Primary School, Buckhurst Hill Primary School, Alderton Junior School, John McLay and Gill McLay at Bath Kids Lit Fest and Jane Churchill at Cheltenham Lit Fest for hosting us! You can see a few more photos on Twitter at #PugsRoadshow and Philip has blogged about the tour here.

10. Despite all this collaboration and working together malarky, you can only fit one author in a chair at a time. (Yes, I'm looking at YOU, Philip Reeve.)

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2. pictures mean business: in the spotlight

This week I haven't had much chance to keep an eye on the latest #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign developments, but thankfully people have still been talking about it!

I've been traveling around the country on the #PugsRoadshow tour with a relay team of Oxford University Press publicists and my Pugs of the Frozen North co-author, Philip Reeve. I thought there would be time to blog on tour, but it's been FULL-ON stage shows to thousands of kids and I've only managed to crash into bed at night, getting up early for the next morning school event.

On Tuesday, I'd been invited to a London reception for The Hospital Club 100 Awards, but I couldn't manage to get away from the tour to go, and since there were lots of big names on the shortlist, I was pretty sure I wouldn't win. So I was very surprised to get a tweet from @TheHospitalClub saying I had indeed won the award, which honoured the work done to promote the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign, followed by Sarah Shaffi's article in The Bookseller.

To be honest, I didn't quite get it; there are a lot of managing directors and people who are a lot more powerful in publishing than me; I'm pretty small-fry. So I looked into the award a bit more, and watched a video of the judges talking about what kind of people they were looking for in granting the awards:

* Somebody who doesn’t start a sentence with ‘The problem about publishing is…’ but they look at the challenges and the opportunities. - Simon Trewin

* Somebody who is making a mark and accelerating change. - Damian Horner

* What we are looking for in a winner is somebody who is challenging publishing and the wider book business. - Philip Jones

And I guess that's it, I have been trying to bring about change in a positive way: I know people in publishing care about illustrators and want to better for them, they just haven't realised how. At first I felt kind of embarrassed even to retweet the news, because I don't claim to be a major force in publishing, and I know lots of people have been trying for a long time to get illustrators better credited for their work. But here's why I think this year's been good timing for a campaign:

* Publishers are plugged into Twitter and illustrators can make it work for us. There's been a lot of attention concentrated around the Twitter hashtag #PicturesMeanBusiness because it's pulled the conversation together; people have been able to use it as a reference point without having to explain the whole argument each time:

* The digital age means pictures are more important than ever. Another reason I think the campaign has gained ground is because so much of what people read now is on the Internet, and the Internet is SO driven by images, and the sharing of images. Tweets that have images attached to them often travel much further than words-only tweets. Sites such as BuzzFeed know they need to break up their articles with images to make them go viral. Last year everyone thought the book was going to be dead soon because of ebooks, but instead we've seen growth in illustrated children's books and in luxury editions that people buy as beautifully designed objects; readers love the visual and tactile aspects of their books and they often want more than generic-looking words on a screen. Publishers are realising more and more that children want illustrated chapter books to fill the huge gap between picture books and text-only books. They're used to reading stories with pictures on many platforms (just like their parents, who share Facebook pictures) and ripping them suddenly away from illustrated stories can turn them off to reading entirely.

* Craft and making things is a huge force right now in publishing. People don't just want recipe books, they want to know about people who make the food. People like the idea of things being created by identifiable people; thus the rise in celebrity chefs and shows like Great British Bake Off. Readers and viewers like to connect with people who make things, and people find illustration a heartwarming concept. Colouring books are huge right now, lots of people want to play a part in creating images.

So the campaign is timely; it's impossible these days to argue that illustrations and cover designs aren't part of what make books sell. And freelance illustrators (and photographers) know they need to build their names as brands to establish their careers; these pictures don't create themselves.

Some advances we've seen this year:

* More publishers seem to be including illustrators' names on the front covers of highly illustrated books.

I don't have any concrete statistics about how many of these decisions were made because publishers were aware of the campaign, but from what I hear, it seems to be helping. I've had several e-mails from illustrators who hadn't previously been credited on covers, saying that because of the campaign, their publishers had reconsidered and are now going to give them a front cover credit.

* I've seen some growing expectation that celebrity writers will credit their illustrators when talking about their books to the media.

* Some illustrators seem to be realising that they need to speak up for themselves, and the hashtag gives weight to what they're saying. Hopefully agents are also more aware and are helping illustrators negotiate better contracts that don't leave cover credits and other crediting to the whim of marketing people near publishing time.

But we still face stiff challenges. I've had a lot of e-mails, direct messages and conversations with illustrators who are too scared to tweet using #PicturesMeanBusiness when an issue arises affecting their own books and branding, but who feel very strongly about the issue. They're afraid that they won't get more work if they try to negotiate a better deal for themselves or point out a failure in crediting, and they worry they'll be branded 'trouble'. By having a campaign, we're able to defend each other to a certain extent, so each person doesn't have to fight alone.

But the problem with a campaign is that it inevitably involves pointing out where people are doing something wrong, so the wrong can be made right. Even though almost everyone agrees with the campaign, I've annoyed several people rather badly by pointing out places where they should have credited illustrators. I do worry it will affect my own career, but I've had a sort of safety blanket because I work with Philip Reeve, who's an incredibly supportive co-author:

And my publishers - Oxford University Press Children's, Scholastic UK and David Fickling Books - all care about their illustrators and agree with the campaign. So I really owe it to them, that I haven't, like so many other illustrators, felt afraid I'd be risking my whole career to say anything.

Touring as an illustrator (and co-author) with Philip this week on the Pugs Roadshow has really shown me the power of images with kids; so many of them connect with our event when they get a chance to draw, and see us drawing. To pretend that Philip created the whole book and to ignore its many pictures would just be silly and miss a real chance to inspire them. The audiences are able to see that the pictures in the books they hold in their hands are created by a real person and connect with the story through the illustrations as well as through the words.

In his interview about The Hospital Club 100 Award, judge Simon Trewin made this point:

A lot is talked about what is going wrong with publishing at the moment. I think what is exciting about publishing is an opportunity for readers to develop a direct connection with people writing books. Whether it’s through blogs or vlogs, we have a direct connection now, and direct connections, in my experience, stimulate sales.

I agree, and with my #PicturesMeanBusiness badge on, I'd say that letting readers have direct connections with illustrators is a crucial part of interesting them in the book and making them want to read more. Creating enthusiastic readers is in everyone's interest, not just those of illustrators.

Thanks very much to The Hospital Club for the award, and the chance to spread the news further about #PicturesMeanBusiness!

Find out more at www.picturesmeanbusiness.com. (And here's the whole judges' video if you want to watch.)

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3. Pugs Roadshow, Day 1

The #PugsRoadshow begins! Yesterday Philip and I visited Simply Books in Bramhall, near Manchester, and met some gorgeous pugs and some very enthusiastic families. Here you can see Betty (in my arms) and Philip in full explorer gear. (Well, he forgot his hat.)

Photo by Judy Rigby

Here's the shop, and the lovely owners, Andrew and Sue, who are hosting us on a bunch of school visits in... oh, nine minutes. Eek!

Check out these amazing knitted pugs!

And here are our lovely knitters who created them all! (You, too, can knit a pug if you want to download the free pattern, created by Ms Deadly Knitshade.)

We got to meet kids from loads of schools, including Greenbanks and Hurdsfield schools.

Dog biscuits! For people. Mmmm.

Thanks for all your help, Jill!

And lovely BOO. And Betty. LOVE.

Good journaling going on here!

We like to keep our publicist, Liz Scott, very busy with inflatables and feeding our new pug, Kathy.

He doesn't like olives, oddly. (Nor does Kathy.)

If you want to learn how to draw a pug, you can download a drawing sheet here!

And oh my, it's time to go! Coming, Liz!

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4. pugs roadshow fast approaching!

'So what's happening in Reeve & McIntyre land?' I hear you ask. (Did you ask? Well, let's pretend that you did.) We're just about to embark on the PUGS ROADSHOW!

And up north, near Manchester, a certain bookshop in Bramhall has been completely invaded by lovely knitted pugs...

Who could have created such wonders? 'Tis these lovely ladies, friends of Simply Books, where Reeve & I will be visiting next Monday evening! Here's the link to the free pattern if you'd like to knit your own pug (and tweet us a photo!).

The Simply Books event is now sold out, but you can still book tickets for fun Pugs of the Frozen North sessions in Bath, Cheltenham, Kendal and London (details here) and we'll also be doing lots of school events. You can follow our progress on Twitter at the #PugsRoadshow hashtag.

We'll be stopping in Bath, and John McLay and the Bath Kids Lit Fest are having a fundraising auction selling red chair artwork by a whole host of amazing artists. Do check out the catalogue here! Philip and I have both contributed artwork, and they'll launch the online auction here on Ebay starting on 1 Oct.

In Pugs of the Frozen North, we talk about some of the fifty kinds of snow you get in 'True Winter'. And today I've learned from this Guardian article by Alison Flood that the Scots have at least 421 words for snow. I really must check that thesaurus to be sure they include some of the fifty kinds of snow in our Pugs book: stinksnow, singing snow, shrinksnow, I'm sure they must all be there.

And while we're at it, I have to brag that a few weeks ago I had dinner sitting next to Susan Rennie, who translates Tintin comics into Scots dialect. How cool is that?

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5. pugs of the frozen north: london pug walk

On Thursday in London, my co-author Philip Reeve and I celebrated the launch of our book Pugs of the Frozen North with a Pug Walk!

Photo by Dannie Price

Our team at Oxford University Press had been getting very excited in the run-up to the Pug Walk, and had invited The Pug Dog Club to join us. I wasn't quite sure what to think: what would happen when we got so many pugs all in one place? What if it rained? What if some of the pugs got in fights? Would pugs mind a complete stranger picking them up and putting jumpers onto them? Would the owners get annoyed at me if I made them growl? We met on the Southbank in London, wondering what would happen.

Pugteam's Liz Scott came down from Manchester with some marvellous knitted items for the pugs. Do you remember my blog post about all the amazing knitted sea monkeys at the Manchester Children's Book Festival? Well, Liz's friend Ally from Ally's Wonderland, who had created those, took on the task of making pug jumpers! Here you can see the exciting packages:

Photo by Ally's Wonderland

But would the pugs want to wear them? Here's club member Sam, and Liz, putting a jumper onto little Benny Bean.

Okay, what do you think, little pug?

Photo by Dannie Price

You know what I discovered about pugs? They don't seem to mind being dressed up...

On top of that, they don't mind posing for photos. In fact, they seem to LIKE posing for photos, and they turn their heads so we can photograph them at all their best angles.

Photo by Dannie Price

I believe they might be almost as vain as I am.

Photo by Dannie Price

And then the owners started handing us lots of their leads, and I thought, Eek! What if they don't like each other? But this was not a problem! The pugs were such placid little things, they sniffed each other and nosed about, but they seemed as happy as they could be. And gosh, were they cute.

The only time they got slightly ruffled is when someone came by with a slightly wolfish sort of dog - not a pug - and the pugs made little muttering noises and moved about restlessly until he'd gone away.

Photo by Dannie Price

We picked up quite a crowd while we were there; everyone, it seems, loves a pug, and the more pugs, the better. Here we are with the pugparazzi.

Would the pugs mind us picking them up? ...Not at all, we discovered!

Photo by Dannie Price

Oh my goodness, they are SO FUN to cuddle.

Here are two of the pugs, having a little chat.

Photo by Dannie Price


We read them a bit of Pugs of the Frozen North and they seemed to like that.

Then we took them on a little walk down the Southbank to Foyles Bookshop (making many stops along the way). Oddly, I didn't see one pug do as much as a wee, they were almost strangely tidy little dogs.

Photo by Dannie Price

And they're quite strong, there was a lot of power at the end of those leashes. Philip and I thought that perhaps Sika and Shen in our book might not have needed all 66 pugs to compete in the sled race to the North Pole; 20 or so might have done just fine. When we reached Foyles, we saw they'd created a big window display for our book!

Photo by Dannie Price

We took a group photo with the pug team. I wish I could remember all the names of the pugs. There was Coco and Tuppence and Princess and Pudding and Benny Bean... a proper grumble of pugs. (That's the collective noun for a group of pugs!)

I got awfully attached to them.

Here's Coco and his lovely Colombian owner:

And this is Sam and her Benny Bean, who fell asleep in my lap while I signed everyone's books.

He had his chin on my wrist but he never knocked my pen once. The pug club people were very friendly and it was fun seeing them chatting and exchanging numbers. Some of them are involved in the Pug Dog Welfare and Rescue Association UK, and they'll be auctioning off some of our books, pug goodie bags and several of Ally's beautiful pug jumpers that you see here. (I'll let you know when they announce it!)

I was totally smitten. I used to think that if I was ever going to get a dog, I might get a labrador. But I think, living in the city, if I got a dog, now it would be a pug. I'm a Pug Convert.

Huge thanks to Liz Scott and the Oxford University Press team, the Pug Dog Club, Ally's Wonderland, Foyles for hosting the signing, Dannie Price for taking photos (along with Keo Baxedine and Alesha Bonser, who passed my iPhone around) and Philip, of course, for writing such a brilliant book! Here's a closer look at Ally's jumpers:

You can see they're directly inspired by illustrations in the book. Here's Sika, when she first learns Shen's dogs aren't the big sled-dog huskies she was hoping for:

Photo by Ally's Wonderland

And here's a pug with SNOBOT, Professor Shackleton Jones's robotic companion which proves very good at digging him out of a deep snowdrift.

Photo by Ally's Wonderland

Here's the fearsome Kraken of Kraken's Deep, which the 66 pugs defend Sika and Shen against:

Photo by Ally's Wonderland

And a yeti! I won't give away the secrets of the Yeti Noodle Bar, but it's a combination of much yumminess and terrible peril.

Photo by Ally's Wonderland

Thanks so much, Ally! You can follow her on Twitter at @allyleeswonder and here's her Facebook page. And you can see a few more photos on Twitter under the #PugWalk hashtag. (Ha ha, if you WANT to see more photos! I had such a hard time whittling this blog post down to, like, 200 of them.)

I actually felt myself going slighty teary when I had to leave the pugs to go sign more books in Foyles, I didn't want to get Benny Bean off my lap or say goodbye to everyone. So all those pug owners, please give your pugs an extra cuddle when you read this and say it's from Philip and me. Cheers!

Photo by Dannie Price

**Click here if you'd like to learn how to draw a pug or download a free pattern to knit your own pug!**

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6. nosy crow's #illustratorsalon with steven lenton

Last night my studio mate Elissa Elwick and I went straight from the studio to the first in a new series of Illustrator Salon events, featuring illustrator, animator and writer Steven Lenton being interviewed by Nosy Crow publisher Kate Wilson. Here's a little drawing I made of them:

And here you can see some of the books Steven's illustrated for Nosy Crow! We've recently seen some great picture books by people who come from an animation background, such as Benji Davies, Jon Klassen, Jim Field and Jonny Duddle. (Can anyone help me add some female animators to that list?)

Steven talked about character design being his key element in setting up a story, and you can see some of his canine personalities here:

Like most animators and illustrators I know, Steven mentioned his huge love of early Disney artist Mary Blair's artwork. ...Ha ha, I was just writing this blog post and mentioned that to Elissa, and she turned around with two Mary Blair books in hand:

I'd previously heard a talk by Jon Klassen, who much prefers settings and backgrounds, and finds the characters the hardest thing to come up with, so it was interesting to hear that Steven's the oppositive. But both love shape over line, and try to get rid of a lot of their line work (outlines) in their final art, even if they use a lot of lines in their rough sketches. Steven and Kate both talked about the benefits of working digitally; how it gets rid of the cost and time involved in having to get artwork scanned. I can imagine the Photoshop layers also make the artwork much easier to convert into moving parts for apps. But when Kate asked him about some of his favourite illustrators, he mentioned David Roberts, who works with real pens and paint and submits his artwork to be scanned. Steven said that if he ever gets in a rut, he might spent a couple months working on getting away from digital artwork and using more traditional materials.

I know what he means, I keep thinking I could try to rely less on line (I'm so attached to using lines!), but I'd need some time to explore that way of working before launching straight into a book with it. And I've just downloaded loads of amazing Photoshop digital brushes from Kyle T. Webster but the trick is going to be getting time to learn how they work. Steven talked about spending a lot of time promoting his books, and having big ideas but not always the budget. I've been seeing him loads on the festival circuit, usually with his fab writer co-author Tracey Corderoy. Here's a photo I took of them and their custom-designed friends at Edinburgh Book Festival this year:

It was great to see lots of familiar faces in the audience, including a gang of us who are all represented by Jodie Hodges at United Agents (@JodieHodges31 on Twitter): Karl Newson (who's just recently signed on and check out his work; it's amazing, @Karlwheel), Elissa Elwick (@ElissaElwick), my amazing Jampires co-author David O'Connell (@davidoconnell) and me!

I really appreciate Kate and editor Tom Bonnick at Nosy Crow responding to the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign to credit illustrators by profiling them in this way. They're going to ask lots of illustrators to speak, not just Nosy Crow illustrators, and keep an eye out on the Nosy Crow blog and Kate's Twitter (@NosyCrow for future events. I really liked the venue, too - The Book Club in Shoreditch - funny lightbulbs stuck to the ceiling like we were in some sort of wasps' nest, and a good range of drinks and cocktails. I think my only suggestion for future events would be to offer name tags at the door, and encourage people to write their Twitter names as well. Elissa, Dave and I went for pizza afterward and as we talked over who'd been there, I kept having the awful realisation that I'd met loads of people I knew fairly well from Twitter and would've loved to have talked with longer, but never managed on the night to figure out who they were in person. ARGHH.

Thanks for a great evening, Kate, Tom, Steven, the bartender, and everyone who made it so much fun! I'm really looking forward to the next one. You can follow Steven on Twitter at @2dscrumptious and do be sure to check out new #PicturesMeanBusiness comments on Twitter, and feel free to leave some yourself!

Edit: Yay! Steven has tweeted me some names of female illustrator-animators. Thanks, Steven! They include: Yasmeen Ismail (@YasmeenMay), Leigh Hodgkinson, @hoonbutton (I didn't realise Leigh was an animator!), Fiona Woodcock (@FionaWoodcock) and Candy Guard (@Candy_Guard.

Fred, by Yasmeen Ismail

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7. doodlydoos

A few drawings from this week: here's a magnet I made for Philip Ardagh's birthday. King Pugbeard! We see a lot of Ardagh these days in the studio because he's making FOUR picture books with my studio mate, Elissa Elwick.

Speaking of Elissa, here she is, also in magnet form, with her boyfriend Martin. He's very sweet and plays in a thrasher metal band.

And here's Elissa again, with writer Jeff Norton and editor of The Bookseller magazine Philip Jones. We were at the magazine's drinks party because I'm speaking about the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign at their upcoming Author Day on 30 Nov.

Ah, and one more; I get lots of paper offcuts right now because I'm painting picture book pages that are only just a bit smaller than my paper. So here's a puddle boy painted onto one of the scraps.

If you're going to tomorrow's Illustrator Salon in London with Steven Lenton, I'll see you there!

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8. pugs of the frozen north: guardian draw-a-pug!

The Guardian asked if they could airlift me in to draw them some pugs... Read the whole thing here!

And Guardian Books are selling Pugs of the Frozen North in their online shop here.

You can find out more about the drawings over on the Oxford University Press blog!

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9. pugs of the frozen north: five ideas for the classroom

A couple weeks ago, I got an excited e-mail from a teacher named Claire Williams:

I'm not sure whether you'll remember me - I was sat next to you at the Book Awards dinner in Nottingham and we talked about how Pugs of the Frozen North sounded like an exciting novel to use for the Polar Bear topic that I have to plan for the first two weeks of term with my Polar Bears class. Well, I've read it, I just know that the children will LOVE it and I have also decided that if we're going to get as much enjoyment out of it as it has to offer, it's going to need more than two weeks! I'm going into school tomorrow to turn my classroom into the North Pole and the novel is going to be at the heart of our topic for the whole first half of this term, which I think I'm going to call ‘The Race to the Top of the World’ … I just wondered whether there is any chance that you and/or Philip might be able to spare a few minutes to come up with some sort of writing challenge based on Pugs of the Frozen North?

So we did! And since we'd done it for Claire, it made sense to turn it into notes that more people could print out. I consulted with Claire to get the notes as accessible as possible for teachers to use and adapt.
**Click here to download the notes as a printable PDF!**

Here are FIVE WAYS to use Pugs of the Frozen North in the classroom!

1. Draw a Pug!

Give your students confidence in character creation by making a pug out of simple shapes. It’s much more fun to write about a character who looks back off the page at you!

How you could build on this:

• Have everyone draw their pug on brown paper (such as parcel wrapping paper) in thick black pen. Give them pastels to make the whites of the eyes stand out and have each child design a different colour jumper for their pug. Have them cut out the pugs and display them on a class bulletin board.

• You could expand on this by having each child name his or her pug. Perhaps the child could write a paragraph about the pug’s personality and achievements, such as which sled races it’s already taken part in. Cut out these text boxes and hang them next to each pug as part of the classroom display.

Pugs drawn by Katie Hand, Keara Stewart, Teri Smith's daughter, Sam Reeve and Sam Decie
Browse a large gallery of all-ages pug drawings here!

2. 50 Kinds of Snow

In Pugs of the Frozen North, True Winter brings fifty different kinds of snow. With the class, create a list of all the kinds of snow mentioned in the book. Continue writing the list until the class reaches fifty, imagining what other sorts of snow might exist in True Winter.

Songsnow, screechsnow, gigglesnow, fartingsnow

How you could build on this:

Divide up the snow: Write the fifty kinds of snow on slips of paper, fold them, and have each child draw a piece of paper from a hat to decide which kind of snow each child will focus on for his or her project.

Create a 50 Kinds of Snow class comic book: Each child creates a one-page comic strip. At the top of the page, they draw the title of their comic, which is the name of that particular kind of snow (Singing Snow, Shrink Snow, Farting Snow, Giggle Snow, etc).

Have the children think about what angle they want to take with their comic strip. Some ideas: a scientist could demonstrate how that kind of snow behaves. A pug could encounter the snow during Shen & Sika’s race and have a mini-adventure which shows how the snow behaves. A snowball made of that kind of snow could be the main character in the comic. Or they could show what would happen if that kind of snow in their own school yard. (The possibilities are endless.)

If you’d like tips on how to make comics, I've has created a series of comic-making videos for Book Trust. They’re based on the Sea Monkey from Oliver and the Seawigs, but the same comic-making tips would apply to Pugs or any book or comic the children create.

Click here for all four Comic Jam videos

The advantage of making comics is that the visuals will pull along the writing and make the overall book a more appealing object. There's also more of a chance that children would want to read each other's work if it's in comic form, and the kids would have to work on making their comics read clearly to each other.

Collect the comics into a book and add a title page, and possibly a short introduction. The introduction could include a one-line quotation from each child on their favourite thing about Pugs of the Frozen North, or a class book review. Look at the pug endpapers in Pugs of the Frozen North and create your own endpapers, possibly using scans or photos of the pugs the children have drawn. Or create more simple endpapers using white paint blobs (snowballs) on coloured paper; liven this up by giving each snowball eyes. Create a cover and have the children come up with a blurb for the back cover. Include the children’s names on the title page and on the page with their comic.

You could expand on this by having the class create a promotional book video trailer, and posters for the book.

Make a class video about the 50 different kinds of snow. Each child presents a 'snowball' and introduces that particular kind of snow to the camera. Perhaps you cut away during each short talk to pictures or comics further illustrating the snowball's capabilities. Each child could also write out the name of that kind of snow for the camera to focus on before they begin talking.

You can feature one kind of snow per child (‘a selection of the 50 kinds of snow in Pugs of the Frozen North’) or show all 50 kinds. If you want to make the video public on YouTube or Vimeo and there are privacy issues, the children without video permissions could do voice-overs while the camera focuses on their snowball and artwork.

3. The Great Sled Race

Create a Great Sled Race mural on a bulletin board or long strip of paper.

Have each child decide what sort of creature (real or mythical) will pull their particular sled, and how many of these creatures they will need to pull their sled. Have them draw the creature in the top of half a piece of paper and write a short paragraph beneath it, explaining what kind of creatures are in their team, why they think their team is best suited to win the race, and what they have packed in their sled. (This can be serious or jokey.) Make sure the children’s creatures are facing toward the right-hand side of the paper (so everyone’s sled will be going in the same direction).

Have the child go over the outlines of their creature drawing in dark black pen. Cut off the lower half of the paper with the article on it and save this. Have the child trace over the first drawing to create multiples of that creature. (If their team has four dragons, trace over the first dragon three times.) Have them colour their team in bright colours and cut out the creatures. Get them to create a sled out of coloured paper. (This could be as simple as a rectangle, or one of these shapes):

Print out a larger version of this in the downloadable PDF!

For an extra challenge, children could create harnesses for their creatures and draw on coloured paper a picture of themselves riding their sled. For younger children, you could cut around the second shape, glue a headshot photo of the child into the parka hood, and have the child decorate the sled, parka, mittens and boots. A bit of decorative ribbon might make a nice belt. Patterned origami paper might make eye-catching sled blankets.

Create a bulletin board with a coloured background (blue?) and display the sled teams and sleds on the board. Use thread, string or narrow ribbon to connect each sleds to its creatures. Next to each sled, attach the short paragraph the child has written about his or her sled team.

If you have space, have the children cut snowflakes out of paper and add them to the picture. Perhaps you could add a title along the top of the display, such as ‘Race to the Top of the World!’

In Pugs of the Frozen North, the pugs say ‘Yip!’ and ‘Arooo!’ You could create speech bubbles for the children’s creatures with the sounds their various creatures make while they’re racing.

Take a photo (or photos) and tweet it to Philip Reeve at @philipreeve1 and me, Sarah McIntyre at @jabberworks!

4. Polar Board Game

Create a giant board game, adding wonders and perils from the book and inventing some of your own!

Part 1: You'll need a large piece of paper, possibly a roll of paper or paper covering a display board. In the bottom left corner, create the starting point (possibly the name of your school). In the top right corner, draw the North Pole (possibly an actual pole, with a label reading 'North Pole').

Part 2: Draw a curvy track (two parallel lines) connecting the two points, to form a game board race course. Divide the track up into boxes (like a railroad track).

Part 3: Talk about wonders and perils in the book. What might racers meet along the way, that would either help them or hinder them in their journey? You can debate the merits of each (Fartsnow might set you back three squares because it's horrible, or propel you two spaces forward.) Examples include encountering yeti, avalanches, the Kraken, crevasses, polar bears, Northern Lights, snowstorms, ice palace mirages. You can either write or draw onto the game board the different wonders/perils or have the children do it. The class can decide together if each encounter means going forward or backward (and how many squares... -2? +4?) or missing a turn. Write these directions onto the game board.

Kraken Deep!

Part 4: Create two paper markers with blu-tack on the back of each (possibly using a pug face from the How-to-Draw-a-Pug activity or a sled from the Great Race activity). Divide up the class into two teams. Select a person from each team to roll the dice for that team (or take it in turns). Have each team roll the die to see who goes first, then play the game!

Part 5: Discuss with the children how creating a board game is very much like plotting out a story: there's a beginning, and end, and events and setbacks that happen to the characters in the middle. Consider having each child create his or her own board game as a way of plotting out a story. Have them choose a starting point, a finishing point, and decide what their character might encounter between those two points. Then get them to tell or write the story as though they're playing the game they've created.

5. Heart’s Desire

If you could win the Great Race and get your heart's desire, what would it be?

Part 1: Have the children write the answers to these questions. They may feel very private about these answers and not want to share them with the class.

1. What would you want more than anything?
2. What do you think someone else in your family would want more than anything?
3. Is there anything you feel you ought to ask for, even if it's not what you really want?
4. What would happen if you got your heart's desire? Would it make you happy, could it cause problems, or both?

Part 2: The children could use these answers to inspire a story, showing a character who gets his or her heart's desire, how getting this might make things go wrong, and then showing what they'd do (or not do) to make it right again. The story could be in comics form or in writing with illustrations. They could be serious or silly-surreal stories, depending on how they want to approach the subject.

Further ‘Frozen North’ reading: The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean, The Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London, Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill, Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson, Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

Click here to download the notes as a printable PDF. And visit my website - jabberworks.co.uk - for other book-related activities (including how to knit your own pug).

I heard back from Claire, who's already started reading Pugs of the Frozen North to her class:

Sarah, I am absolutely buzzing and I just have to pass this feeling on because you are responsible! I read the first chapter of Pugs of the Frozen North to my lovely new class this morning - I'd only planned to read one chapter to them but they were SO desperate for more that I just had to read a second and then they went on at me so much when I finished the second chapter to carry on that I had to read the third chapter and then we were late for PE but they LOVED it!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you for creating such enjoyable experiences of reading and books for those children - amazing for them but, as a teacher, best feeling ever when learning becomes that exciting!

And thanks for inspiring us, Claire!

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10. #picturesmeanbusiness: crediting artists makes sense

Yesterday I saw a couple relevant #PicturesMeanBusiness comics pop up on Twitter. Here's one by Anthony Clark 'Nedroid', as posted on his Tumblr. It's a simple diagram of how people take artists' images from the Internet and then think they own them. You also see it with some writers, who proudly say 'Look at my new book cover artwork!'. Uh...

(You can follow Anthony on Twitter as @nedroid.) And here's a longer comic by John Cullen, originally posted here on his website. Follow him on Twitter as @nellucnhoj.

There's a similar hashtag to #PicturesMeanBusiness on Twitter, the #ArtCred tag, originally created by comics artist Declan Shalvey. You can read some of his blog posts about it here.

This is all good stuff! Basically, #ArtCred and #PicturesMeanBusiness are trying to do the same thing: get artists fairly credited for their work so we can keep doing the jobs we're best at. I think the way that #PicturesMeanBusiness differs a bit from similar campaigns is its emphasis on business interests. When I first started making a fuss, illustrators and comics people told me that illustrators had complained before, and occasionally there would be a blip of sympathy for the cause, but then people would move on and forget about it. Which is why I thought it might be wise to take a slightly different tack: not only is it right and fair to credit artists (doh!), but it's actually in the interests of business. Book industry, we're not just trying to win your sympathy, we actually make you money! And we can make you MORE money if you give us a chance to build our careers.

Whether we like it or not, publishing is a business, and people listen to money. Here are some reasons to consider why crediting illustrators may be financially worthwhile:

* To publishers and media: Readers love the idea of a collaborative partnership. Many people wish they could draw. They don't like to think of the illustrator as a forgotten hack. For the media, showing two different people working together (or even occasionally arguing!) creates an interesting real-life story in readers' heads. People will look out for books by that beloved team of creators. Even with celebrities, people love the idea of a celeb working with an artist in a different field; a publicist doesn't have to fake it that that singer/actor/whatever can draw. Publicists, big them up together in your press releases, even if you put the writer's name first.

* To writers: Be good to your illustrators and they might be good to you. Once you start a series, the artwork very much becomes the brand of that series. If a writer doesn't make an effort to make that job worthwhile for the illustrator, sharing the spotlight, the illustrator may find better work and leave the series in a lurch. If the editors and art directors are unsure about continuing the series, an illustrator dropping out may make the decision for them. If illustrators are paid enough and sense book series are helping their careers, they will be much more likely to stick with them. Don't be that negligent writer with the illustrator who's dying to leave you.

* To booksellers: Pictures sell books. Sometimes readers latch on to the name of a beloved picture book writer, but often they'll see a book across the room and recognise the look of it, and pick it up because it's the illustrations they love. (Perhaps they loved The Gruffalo and they see work by its illustrator, Axel Scheffler, paired up with another writer's work.) The pictures may sell the book! So it makes sense to stock books by popular illustrators as well as popular writers. But it's nearly impossible to track illustrator sales figures across their books; people don't usually request this information from Nielsen, the major data provider. If Nielsen gets more requests for this information, they may start making it more readily available. (Read more about metadata issues here.) Do you want this information? Let Nielsen know. If you run an online bookstore, be competitive by making books searchable by illustrator as well as by writer. People may want to look up a book by illustrator and if they can't find it on your website, they'll click over to one that will give them this information.

(Find out more about the campaign at PicturesMeanBusiness.com.)

Other news:
I've been busily working away on a new picture book! I'm not allowed to post images yet, and it hasn't left me a lot of extra doodle time. But I grab it when I can! Here's a drawing posted yesterday by writer-illustrator Chris Priestley, 'Melancholy warrior'. I riffed on it with my 'Grumpy warrior':

Also, #PicturesMeanBusiness has been out and about: I went with my studio mate Elissa Elwick to a party hosted by The Bookseller, to launch their new FutureBook conference series. I'm going to be taking part in a panel and talking about #PicturesMeanBusiness at their Author Day in London on Mon, 30 Nov. (You can read some early details about it here.) I think we might find some good allies!

Reception parties don't always make for great photos. But I thought this one was particularly splendid:

Elissa and I scampered off to VooDoo Ray's for pizza afterward, much recommended for late-night grub.

Oh, and Talented Colleague klaxon! Patrick Ness" has already spotted a copy of Philip Reeve's new book, RAILHEAD! (Philip hasn't even seen the final book yet!) I've read this and I'm super-excited about it.

Patrick has led an amazing campaign of people donating to Save the Children, a charity helping with the current refugee crisis. Lots of well-known writers have chipped in huge sums to match public giving. Here's a current screengrab and you can visit the donation page here!

Lots of love from Elissa Elwick, Gary Northfield and me at the Fleece Station studio, signing off... xx

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11. pugs of the frozen north: helga hammerfest

Today's our official publication day for Pugs of the Frozen North!

With a dog sled team of 66 pugs, pug lovers will not be disappointed. But what about the other characters, which one is your favourite? Mine is Helga Hammerfest, a gentle giant of a women who's in tune with nature and instead of dogs for a sled team, has two polar bears named Snowdrop and Slushpuppy. She also has a luxurious beard, which comes in handy when the pugs get too cold:

When my co-author Philip Reeve and I were talking about characters we wanted in the story, Helga was top of my list. I'd set myself the #NonIdentikit challenge to draw attractive women who weren't beautiful in a Hollywood standards sort of way, and facial hair on women is such a taboo in our society. Which made me want to defy that standard, so I drew this girl:

I think this was Helga as a teenager, growing up in Anaktuvuk Pass, or whatever remote place she came from. After drawing that, I started making decisions about how the Helga in our book would look. Here's an early drawing I made of her for the book, in India ink and dip pen. (I'm tracing from the pencil drawning, on my light box. Helga's meeting Mitzi Von Primm, who very much plays up to fashion and finds Helga a bit disturbing:

When I first start drawing pages, they start as 'thumbnail roughs', which are small (but not quite as small as thumbnails, in this case). And then I move on to sketching it out in pencil, in the size I'm going to draw it for the book. (I drew most of the images at either 100% or 110% of their final printed size.) I sent scans of the pencil roughs to our editor, Clare Whitston, and our designer, Jo Cameron, to make sure that the drawings showed the right things and worked with the placement of the text.

Then I put the penciled page on my light box and trace over it with dip pen and ink. I have to be very careful not to smudge the ink! If I do, I can fix it later in Photoshop, but it takes time and is fiddly, and I like to get it right the first time if I can.

Next, I scan the ink drawing into my computer and open the file in Photoshop. I colour it using my Wacom pen. Here you can see the coloured layers under the ink! I'm only allowed to use black and one colour for the inside pages - blue - but I can use different opacities of the colour, which let me have darker and lighter blues, and a lighter shade of black (grey).

I e-mailed the picture file to Jo Cameron, and she placed the text around the picture and sent the book off to print. Huge thanks to our Oxford University Press team for all their work on this book! With our publisher Liz Cross, editor, head designer, design group, publicists, rights sales team, publicity tour coordinators, printers, it's quite a large team!

And big thanks to Stephen Holland, Page 45 owner, who's written an indepth review of Pugs of the Frozen North for his amazing blog! You can read about (and buy) the book from him online or in his Nottingham-based shop which sells comics and illustrated books.

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12. guardian children's literature festival 2015

For London's very first Guardian Children's Lit Fest, it seemed important to make an effort...

...or at least to MAKE AN ENTRANCE.

My co-author Philip Reeve and I were thrilled to be part of it. The Guardian Children's Book website hosts loads of amazing material in a time when children's book journalism in the major newspapers is very scarce. Emily Drabble and her team have been doing a great job of getting the word out. You can follow them on Twitter at @GdnChildrensBks. (I've done several how-to-draw tutorials for them, including how to draw a Hungry T-Rex, Jampires and a Silly Unicorn.)

So Philip and I brought along our brand new book, Pugs of the Frozen North:

And encountered several PERILS along the way:

But together with the audience's help, we plotted our way through them to reach the North Pole.

Here's a picture we drew right before the event: I drew Philip and he drew me! (It's fun working with a writer who's also an illustrator.)

With the addiction of a giant die, things got awfully exciting:

Sadly, I didn't get a chance to go to any of the other events, but they looked ace. On the way to our book signing, I passed Joseph Coehlo in poetry mid-flow:

And I'd seen on social media that Paul Stickland had been preparing to paint a giant dinosaur:

Photo by Paul Stickland

And I was just about to jump in and paint with him...

Photo by Paul Stickland

... but then I was whisked away, back into the sky. (Thanks for the photo, Paul!) I think Paul's posted a video somewhere of the giant T-Rex he drew; it was pretty awesome.

Photo by Paul Stickland

...Back in the sky, where I was met by my trusty steed, the Dartmoor Pegasus. Ha ha, I just had to share this one, posted by Mathew Tobin (@Mat_at_Brookes on Twitter, GrimResistance on Reddit):

Big thanks to the Guardian team, to Emily, to everyone who came along, to OUP publicist Sarah Howells, and to Stuart for carrying ukuleles, blowing up the giant die and being generally fabulous.

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13. dartmoor pegasus in print!

Dartmoor Pegasus started as a little 'artifact' created by Philip Reeve at least a decade ago, before I knew him.

And today it's printed in story form in the Telegraph! (Thanks, illustrator Cathy Brett, for alerting us!)

Photo by Cathy Brett

We originally created the story for my blog, day by day. Philip adapted the story slightly when the newspaper asked us if they could print it, so it would work with less images, and you can read the whole fully illustrated version here on my blog.

I love drawing the Dartmoor Pegasus so much! And he so came to symbolise fun, supportive co-authorship to me that we ended up making him the logo for our #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign to get illustrators credited properly for their work. Making stories with a friend is the best thing EVER.


PS Funnily enough, our story's across from an article about Doctor Who, and Philip wrote a Doctor Who story! You can see my fan art for it here.

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14. #picturesmeanbusiness in the media

Big thanks to everyone who's supporting the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign! We're making a bit of noise: right between Heathrow security and boarding my flight to the USA, I got e-mails from both Kat Brown at The Telegraph and Alison Flood from The Guardian, wanting to report on the campaign. I managed to borrow a laptop in the USA to do a Skype interview at my friend's dinner table with Dan Damon for the BBC World Service. I haven't had a chance to link to them properly, but here they are now, and I've posted them onto the 'Further Reading' section of PicturesMeanBusiness.com.

Kat Brown in The Telegraph, read it here:

Alison Flood in The Guardian, read it here:

Dan Damon interviewing me on BBC World Service, listen here:

We still have a long way to go. I was sorry to see Mariah Carey's new picture book won't have the illustrator's name on the cover (implying that Mariah has taken to painting).

I was hoping to big up the book's illustrator, Colleen Madden, on Twitter but she doesn't have an account. I understand the need to use a big celebrity name to sell a book, but it's dishonest and misleading not to mention the illustrator on the front cover, at least in smaller letters. Publishers may argue that they credit the illustrator on the back cover or inside the book, but these aren't what people see when they browse book covers on the Internet. Particularly with a PICTURE book, big credits for the illustrator should be a no-brainer decision for the publisher.

Jarry Lee on BuzzFeed, read it here

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15. edinburgh book festival 2015

Once a lonely hunter ventured out upon the ice
The wind was howling fearful cold
It wasn't very nice
Then out of the swirling snow some tiny dogs burst forth...

Photo tweeted by Tom Gates author Liz Pichon

...And thus begins the theme song of the new Reeve & McIntyre book, which launched at this year's Edinburgh Book Festival!

Now, Philip Reeve and I might get taken more seriously by grown-ups as Proper Authors if we turned up for events wearing black turtlenecks, stroking our chins, and taking turns giving dour gazes into the middle distance. But that's been done before and isn't half as much fun.

Photo tweeted by writer Gwyneth Rees

Last year we came space-themed (photos here), and this year we started with a handy shirt my husband, Stuart, had bought years ago in a market in Moscow, and built up the costumes from there. We thought we'd avoid blue (too much like another Frozen) or red (I'm not Mrs Claus) and I love the yellow on our book cover, a look I'd borrowed from the Japanese edition of our earlier book Oliver and the Seawigs! I seldom think foreign publishers actually improve on our covers, but the Japanese totally did.

Here's our Pugs cover evolution. (And I just saw that our American publishers have gone public with a blue cover.)

Photo by Stuart

Of course books aren't ALL about cover colours and costume. But there are millions of books in the world and somehow we have to figure out how to make ours jump off the shelves. Besides, dressing up makes going on stage much easier somehow. It's like being in a play. This time the excellent Esther Marfo sewed my dress to my drawing of it. Here she is in her workshop:

And here's the icicle tiara I made, with plastic soda bottles, a comb, scissors, a candle and a glue gun.

You can learn how to do almost anything on the Internet. Here's a tutorial I adapted to make the tiara. It was a lot of fun to make, and not too tricky, after I'd messed up the first couple icicles.

And my Aunt Joy just happened to give me this dog-paw necklace on my recent trip to the USA, so thank you, Auntie! Selfie with Stuart in our Edinburgh hotel lift:

And yes, we did look a lot like traveling balalaika players. Which is GREAT, everyone loves a good long balalaika album, or two, or twenty-two. Our Oxford University Press designer, Jo Cameron, created this terrific album cover for us:

And Philip created a special edition of our standard anti-yeti spray. Very important to take along, when you're journeying to the Frozen North.

Ah, a chance to try it out in the Author Yurt, on one of Edinburgh's most famous yeti, Philip Ardagh!

Hmm... did it work?

Oh dear. Not only did it not work, but it seems to have caused that yeti to REPLICATE. ...Or wait, is that writer AF Harrold? It's hard to be sure.

Printed photo by festival photographer Chris Close

I was thrilled to bits that illustrator Steven Lenton came along to our event and took this Pugs-in-action photo. He's the first speaker in Nosy Crow's Illustrator Salon, hosting its first event in London on 14 Sept (with plans to feature non-Nosy Crow illustrators, too). Nosy Crow's Tom Bonnick set it up partly in response to the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign to get illustrators credited for their work, and encourage people to take an interest in talking about a book's pictures and finding out more about who made them. You can book tickets to the Illustrator Salon here, and read more about the campaign at www.picturesmeanbusiness.com.

Philip and I can't imagine not bigging up both the writing AND the pictures in our book, and we love how kids get excited when they discover they can make a simple drawing and have it come out well. Here are some of the audience's pug drawings that we got to see when we met them afterward at the book signing.

You can learn how to KNIT your own pug over on my website here.

I love this girl's drawing of me, and Philip and me in our preferred way of arriving at book festivals.

After we finished our first event, Stuart, Philip and I popped over to Blackwell's Edinburgh to meet Fiona and sign some copies of our various books. (You might still find a few signed Pugs books there if you're quick.)

Thanks for the lovely write-up, Fiona! :)

Then it seemed appropriate to pay our respects to Edinburgh's own canine hero, Greyfriars Bobby. (You can read his story here.

But it wasn't all PUGS at Edinburgh, that was just the latest book! I also had a storming DINOSAUR POLICE event to do. Here was the view of Edinburgh Castle on the second morning, from the stairwell in our hotel.

I donned a vintage frock and yellow gloves I'd found last week in Seattle with my sister and met up with Dinosaur Dave, aka David Sanger from Scholastic UK. Dave made a great dinosaur, roaring, rampaging around the tent and falling asleep on the floor and snoring loudly, right in the middle of the stage. Thanks, Dave!

I wore my lucky Officer Brachio badge, stitched by Sami Teasdale.

And here are some T-Rex drawings!

In Dinosaur Police, Trevor the T-Rex escapes from the pizza factory with pizzas still stuck all over his body, so a lot of these dinosaurs had food stuck to them, too.


One of the coolest thing was seeing kids who were repeat visitors, either from previous years or from the previous day's Pugs event. Thanks for coming back, guys!

And I love it when everyone draws, not just the kids! Here's a fab T-Rex tweeted by writer Pamela Butchart. Big thanks to everyone who came along! You can learn how to draw your own T-Rex and more on my website right here.

My one big disappointment about this year's Edinburgh Book Festival was that my event was on at almost the exact same time as Philip Reeve's event with his co-author Kjartan Poskitt. They worked together years ago on the Murderous Maths books, and recently have been doing the Borgon the Axeboy books together, with Reeve illustrating and Poskitt writing. (Poskitt's name also appears as a god in the Mortal Engines books.)

Of course, I pestered them as much as I could before and after our events...

...But I saw this photo tweeted by their Faber publicist of Philip lying on the floor on stage, and was GUTTED I hadn't see it myself.

When we were out and about with Stuart, we caught sight of the bus to Clovenstone, the name Philip borrowed for the land where he set his GOBLINS trilogy.

Go read the GOBLINS books, they're ace!

A few other sightings of writers and illustrators whose names you may recognise... here's writer Moira Young with Philip Ardagh:

And writer Patrick Gale, who hosted us at last year's North Cornwall book festival!

And here in the centre is the excellent person who runs the whole show, the children's book section of the festival, Janet Smyth! I got to meet all three generations! Here she is with her mum and daughter, who was also working for the festival. Huge thanks for making it so fabulous!

Oo, it's the always-super-photogenic comic creators, the Etherington Brothers! (Who are actual brothers and make comics together, which is the coolest thing ever.)

And Naomi Alderman, who writes the scripts for Zombies, Run!, among many other things.

With writer-illustrator Steve Anthony:

Comics creator Jamie Littler, who recently illustrated a book with writer Danny Wallace:

Liz Pichon's Tom Gates fingernails:

Writer Nicola Morgan has done loads of work for the Society of Authors CWIG committee (Children's Writers & Illustrators Group) and done research into why Author Visits to schools are such an important thing in getting kids excited about reading, writing and drawing, and advice on Author Visit fees.

Amazing double-act, illustrator Steven Lenton and Tracey Corderoy (and friends):

Illustrator Emma Dodd:

And I even got to catch up and draw with some of my Scottish relatives! Here's a picture I drew of Eve and Callum at dinner:

Stuart and I were so busy at this festival that we didn't get much time to wander about, but we did take a good walk along the Royal Mile and see all the other performers, which made me feel very normal in my own costume.

Excellent elephant puppet:

Big thanks to Janet Smyth, my Scholastic team Dave Sanger and Sophia Pemberton, our OUP team Elaine McQuade and Keo Baxendine, Joely Badger and all the staff and volunteers who made the festival run so smoothly.

And biggest thanks to lovely Stuart, who read through my Pugs script with me, listened to my ukulele practicing, helped me zip up costumes, helped carry luggage, and generally made the trip more pleasant. My hero! :)

I meant to draw a nice festival round-up picture on the train, but I was so shattered that this was all I managed:

If you missed our events in Edinburgh, we're gearing up for the PUGS ROADSHOW, so check on my Events page to see if we stop near you!

You can read Philip's Edinburgh blog here, and the Bookwitch has already blogged about our Pugs event here.

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16. pugs of the frozen north: birthday pugs!

Oh my goodness, if 66 pugs make up a dog sled team, I think we have enough for two teams!! Huge thanks to everyone who took the Birthday Pug challenge! (See previous post for details.) I tried to include everyone's; huge apologies if I accidentally left out your pug!

By my Pugs of the Frozen North co-author Philip Reeve (a fart-powered Dartmoor Pugasus)

By Katie (sent by Martin Hand)

By Sam Reeve

By Jonathan Edwards (@Jontofski on Twitter)

By my Jampires co-author David O'Connell (@davidoconnell on Twitter)

By Sarah Reeve

Philip Ardah drew his pug right there in my studio.

By Jamie Smart

By Fluffy (sent by Simone Lia)

By @MumdyMorn on Twitter

By @neilslorance on Twitter

By @@NiciGregory on Twitter

By my studio mate Gary Northfield (@gnorthfield on Twitter)

By James Turner (@eruditebaboon on Twitter)

By Darryl Cunningham (@AcmeDarryl on Twitter)

By Joel Stewart (@joelstewart on Twitter)

By @JoeDecie on Twitter

By Joe Decie's son

By @cooperillo on Twitter

By @AlexMilway on Twitter

By @alisdair_wood on Twitter

By Cliodhna Lyons on Facebook

By @AlmightyHammer on Twitter

(Also by @AlmightyHammer)

By @androidrian on Twitter

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17. birthday pugs

Big birthday, I turn 40 today! I have a zillion things to blog about (I've been in the USA for three weeks) but I'm scrambling to get ready for our first stage performance of Pugs of the Frozen North at the Edinburgh Book Festival on Saturday. (You can see all my upcoming events here.) So detailed blog later. But if you want to give me prezzie (yay, prezzies!), how about drawing a pug for me? Here's one way you could do it:

(Printable version here)

We put 66 pugs into Pugs of the Frozen North and I'm hoping maybe I can get 66 pug drawings, all with their own names, each a member of the sled team. I just got to see the final printed book two days ago, mega-exciting!

A few people have already let me know they've found it in the shops (notably Foyles in Waterloo station). Here are my friends Dulcie and Laurence finding out that the book's dedicated to them, and Katie getting stuck in:

Okay, I'm 40, I'm allowed a reflection moment: I used to wonder how many books - if any - I'd have published when I turned 40 and, not including pamphlets things and mini-comics, I'm up to 19 books, which I'm really happy about. I used to be awful at public speaking and I've gotten better at it. Best of all, I'm getting to work with talented colleagues I really enjoy spending time with, having a laugh and creating things together. I still need to work on time management skills, making the time to see friends and taking time to stay healthy, but I feel like I'm doing what I've always wanted to do. And I'm really excited that people have responded to the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign; it would be brilliant if illustrators started finding it more feasible to keep working in this profession and the career started becoming more accessible to people from diverse backgrounds.

Ah, one more thing, here's a pug who wanted to be in the dogsled team but who kept failing at auditions. We finally let him in on charm, and you can read the book to find out if the dog sled actually managed to go anywhere. Pugs aren't famous for being agile on ice. (Thanks for the link, Caroline Smith!)

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18. #PicturesMeanBusiness: taking a stand on book covers

It's great following on Twitter the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign to credit illustrators and seeing how we're making some progress. (See picturesmeanbusiness.com if you wan to catch up.) But we're still hitting major hitches: writers, publishers, journalists and reviewers whom you'd think would support crediting illustrators - some of who've even heard of the campaign and expressed interest - keep letting us down. Writers and publicists launch new cover art with no mention of the illustrator. Illustrators of highly illustrated books are left off the cover. Articles show lavish book art without mentioning who created it, the list goes on.

Why? What's the problem? I don't think most people are doing it deliberately, they're just being thoughtless, or can't be bothered. What I love about children's book world - but what also can trip us up - is that its people are mostly very NICE. They love book-themed cupcakes and photos of puppies and being, well, nice to each other. Everyone can coast on a wave of niceness, never addressing the major issues that have illustrators flailing while often maintaining their rictus grins.

I want to do something that's not exactly nice. But maybe taking a stand will bring attention to the problem:

From now on, I'm not going to buy any new illustrated children's books unless the illustrator's name is somewhere on the front cover. Join me, if you like! By 'illustrated', I'm going to set the standard as 'at least one illustration per chapter'.

'But... but... that doesn't give us any time to make changes!' a publicist might object. 'Books might be send to print a year in advance of publication!' Well, I'll make a concession for one year: I'll buy the book PROVIDING the bookseller puts a Post-it note on the front cover, letting me know the name of the illustrator.

'But... that's kind of ugly!' the publicist might object. Well, yes, it is. Better just to put the illustrator's name on the cover then, right? A quick redesign of a dust jacket might work, before you change the cover to include the illustrator for the second print run.

Publishers: if you don't think the fact a book is illustrated adds any value to a book, or that making people aware of this draws in potential customers, don't bother spending the money to get your book illustrated. And then watch as the illustrated books soar ahead of your books in sales and those other books draw in the so-called reluctant readers, gladdening the hearts of parents and teachers.

(Find out more at picturesmeanbusiness.com and browse the #PicturesMeanBusiness hash tag on Twitter.)

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19. railhead ambassadors

Yesterday I got to be a RAILHEAD AMBASSADOR at a special early-preview event for Philip Reeve's upcoming novel, Railhead. (Look at me, being all railway and ambassadorial in gold braid and hat. Also slightly overheated.)

Funnily enough, I used to go to lots of ambassadorial events when I first met my husband, when he was working for the British Embassy in Moscow. Back then, I was very studenty and didn't really have any dress-up clothes, so I pretty much wore black jeans, a velvet shirt and Doc Martens everywhere. All the foreign service wives had perfect English-bought clothes for every occasion and I always felt a bit awkward and gauche. So it was nice to be going to an ambassador event when I'd stopped caring about not blending in and could look like a twit with the greatest of joy, ha ha.

Anyway, back to the book, and I'm really excited about this one. Here's a snapshot of one of the posters on display at the event:

'Gentlemen Take Polaroids' is definitely my favourite train name. And here are the other assembled Railhead Ambassadors! Some of them had won a competition to attend, and others were young reviewers for the Guardian Children's Books website.

Here are a few of the tweets from Philip's first Railhead reading:

After the reading and Philip's answers to some very well-thought-out questions from the audience, we had drinks upstairs with Darren Hartwell from BookZone, Caleb Woodbridge and Laura Heath of the aforementioned tweets.

Here's Guardian Chidren's Book website editor Emily Drabble (who, incidentally, commissioned our Seawigs Comics Jam, my How to draw a hungry T-Rex, How to Draw Jampires and How to Draw a Silly Unicorn.)

Then I got to meet some more of the ambassadors while Philip signed advance review copies for the guests. (This version isn't quite finished - there will be a few more tweaks and editions in the final version - but it's ready enough to show to reviewers, to give them an early jumpstart before the book comes out in the autumn.)

These guys made me laugh. They're like, 'REEVE? We are going to CRUSH HIS VERY BONES.'

I'll look forward to reading their reviews! And I'll post a review here nearer to the publication date. But I CAN say that Railhead is ace.

And here's a good showing from the Oxford University Press Railhead publicity team: Keo Baxendine, Liz Scott and Alesha Bonser. You can check out what people are saying over on the #RAILHEAD hash tag.

Funnily enough, on my way to meet Philip, I met a REAL train driver! In fact, I'd met James Bacon before at a comics convention, but I had no idea he drove the Heathrow Express. (How cool is that?)

One more thing: Railhead is Philip's solo book (I'm not a co-author), but there's been a lovely review of our joint book, Oliver and the Seawigs by Stephen Holland of the excellent Page 45 comics shop in Nottingham. Stephen's a legendary reviewer, so I was hugely flattered to see that he'd taken time to focus on Seawigs, which isn't even a comic! I love reading his reviews: they're so exuberant, and he comes up with the most original descriptions and observations. And it's wonderful to see a review that talks so much about the illustrations. Thanks, Stephen! You can read the whole review here (scroll down a bit).

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20. #PicturesMeanBusiness update: Book Metadata

People have been asking me, ‘How’s it going with the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign?’

I’ve heard some good feedback that it’s starting to make a difference, that people in publishing are more aware of the impact they can make on illustrators’ careers by crediting them for their work. But important lists of illustrated books keep popping up with illustrators’ names omitted, from book-loving people you’d think would know better, and they usually assign the blame to incomplete or faulty digital data.

So how’s it going with the whole metadata issue? Are we any closer to sorting out the problems?

On Wednesday, I met up with Jo McCrum and Nicola Solomon from Society of Authors, Loretta Schauer from Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, journalist Charlotte Eyre from The Bookseller magazine and Andre Breedt from Nielsen, the company which compiles and provides the majority of book data. Andre Breedt was incredibly helpful and supportive of the campaign, and explained to us some of the bare bones of how the book data system works, and spent time thinking with us about ways we could try to improve the situation for illustrators (and translators). Here are some of the things I learned, and some conclusions we drew from the meeting, about what we all need to do to make things work better:

* Illustrators and illustrator agents: you need to be more attentive with CONTRACTS. The best way for a illustrator to get his or her name on the front cover of a book is to get that promise in writing. Illustrators, you or your agents need to HAVE THIS DISCUSSION with your publisher. (This is particularly important if you're illustrating educational material, so-called 'middle-grade fiction' or 'illustrated chapter books'.)

Don’t wait until you’ve finished illustrating half the book to finalise this stuff. Don’t work on the promise of a contract. Get it before you begin working or it may be too late; you may get a nasty surprise when the book comes out uncredited to you.

A phrase recommended in your contract by the Society of Authors lawyer at the meeting was ‘front cover credit with due prominence’. You can haggle with how big the lettering needs to be, but at least your name will be on the front cover. If you’ve done a lot of illustrations and the publisher refuses to put you on the front cover, this is a big deal, a blow to your branding, and may mean you have a harder time getting festival appearances and paid author visits. In that case, you need to decide (with your agent, if you have one):

1. If the publisher insists on not crediting you at all, will the publisher pay you a significant extra amount of money to compensate for this?

2. If you can come to another arrangement (say, your name on the title page, back cover, etc), are you happy with the pay and do you think the credit accurately reflects the amount of work you’ve contributed to the overall book?

3. After negotiating this, is the job still worth it, or should you turn it down?

The most important thing is that you’re clear about this important negotiation point from the beginning and the decision isn’t some sales team afterthought.

* Book charities and organisations, people who run award schemes, booksellers, journalists: assess your own practice. You may be in a rush, but don’t blindly accept what you’re given when you cut and paste data. If you’re making the effort to single out the books for recognition, take the time to make sure you’re correctly crediting the people who made them.

You may need to look at an actual copy of the book.

* Publishers: assess how your data works. To get illustrator data right, we need you to do three things:

1. Be sure you're using standardised data (more about this in a moment).

2. Be sure you (or your intern) fill out the box that asks for the illustrator's name (or 'populate the field' in data-speak).

3. When you request data, be sure to ask for the field that includes the illustrator data. If you don't ask for it, Nielsen won't force it on you.

Let me unpack those a bit.

1. Be sure you're using standardised data. The reason we keep having problems is that no one has a brand-new system. Almost everyone has what data people call 'legacy systems', which were designed for a certain purpose, years ago. As the book trade evolved, people made little additions and repairs along the way, instead of getting brand-new system.

For example, a lot of systems were designed for warehouse use, to help people shift around big boxes of books. For the purpose of moving boxes, all they needed to know was if the right books were in the right boxes, how much they'd weigh, and how they'd fit onto a lorry. So there was no reason they would pay to add extra information about an illustrator to the system; it genuinely didn't matter for those purposes.

As time went on, these warehouse systems evolved into what customers used to order books, online shop front (or in data-speak, 'front-end facing') systems. So the same system that dealt with box weight was gradually being asked to deal with customer reviews, star ratings, interesting details about the authors, other book recommendations, etc. And some systems made the transition better than others; transitions costs money. Some companies would get the illustrator data from Nielsen, but their own software wasn't detailed enough for all the data to make the transition to their website, and they could only make manual changes if they wanted to include illustrators for their customers. (Hive Books have been good about adding illustrators when asked, but they're working on improving their overall system.)

For awhile I thought Nielsen didn't actually have a data field for the illustrator. Like most illustrators, I don't have access to their system since I'm not a subscriber, so I couldn't check. But Nielsen DO have this field. Here's the information the Nielsen rep pulled up for my picture book, Dinosaur Police. (And we were both pleased to see Scholastic UK had been filling out all the right data.)

At the meeting with the Nielsen rep, I learned a lot of behind-the-scenes things. If you're trying to understand how it all works, it's important that you understand the roles of these groups:

Nielsen BookData is a business. Nielsen provide a lot of services that help the book trade run effectively behind the scenes. They provide ISBNs for all books published in the UK and Ireland. They collect information on books from publishers, and sent it out to booksellers and libraries, arranged how they want it. They provide electronic ordering services to enable booksellers to order the books for their shops, and they provide the sales and market information, including the bestseller charts. Nielsen data can easily be accessed in standard formats, but if you want a bespoke service, it will take a little longer and cost a little more.

They have two main systems: a bibliographic system and a sales system. So if you're a librarian and want to know all the details about a book, you'll use their bibliographic system. If you're an editor at The Bookseller and want to know whose books are selling best, you'll use the sales system. You can find out which writers' books are selling best, but unfortunately you can only get illustrator information from the bibliographic system. So if you want to know bestselling illustrators, they can get that information, but they have to do it manually. People don't request that information often enough for it to be worth the money they'd need to spend putting illustrator data into the sales system.

Another organisation worth knowing about is BIC, the Book Industry Communications Group.

BIC is an independent body set up to promote standards in the UK book trade. For instance, the ISBN is a standard, and it’s hard to imagine how the book trade could possibly work without it now. Standards help all the players in the industry, and all the different systems, communicate with each other more clearly. BIC’s website statement reads:

BIC is an independent organisation set up and sponsored by the Publishers Association, Booksellers Association, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and the British Library to promote supply chain efficiency in all sectors of the book world through e-commerce and the application of standard processes and procedures.

But BIC just deal with UK standardising. (Its director is Karina Luke.) There’s another group that deals with standardising in other countries, particularly European countries, called EDItEUR. (Its director is Graham Bell.)

All these countries doing things differently sounds very complicated, doesn't it? They think so, too. So EDItEUR are trying to set up a huge overarching global classification system for books, called Thema. (The chair of this is Howard Willows, from Nielsen.)

But how do publishers get their data to Nielsen(so they can put it all together in one place and make it useful)? Lots of different ways, apparently. In the old days, they used to send Nielsen actual books, but they get hundreds of thousands every year, so they had to stop doing that. The way they most prefer publishers to submit data is by using a system called ONIX.

ONIX is the system BIC and Nielsen says really works, and ONIX is regularly updated to meet modern publishing needs. You can see it in the recent additions they've made for entering comics data, including colourists, inkers, letterers, etc:

In Nielsen's ideal world, everyone would use ONIX. But the problem is that not all outdated publisher systems can handle ONIX. So BIC have also created a bare-bones system called BIC Basic, and well, if major publishers can't handle the basic data they need for to submit for that, they're really failing us.

But faulty systems aren't all that's happening. Which brings us to the second point about how we need you to fill in all the data fields. Some publishers (or their badly trained interns) aren't filling in even the most basic things, including illustrator name. Fiona Noble at The Bookseller has been noticing this:

Publishers! To support #PicturesMeanBusiness, you **need** to have a meeting with your marketing and publicity people - particularly the young, clueless newbies - and let them know that press releases and Advance Information sheets without illustrator information are Not Good Enough. Fiona will back me up on this, and she's one of the people you're trying to impress. For us to pull out good data, you need to put IN good data.

No, I am not saying Nielsen is a series of tubes.

And that brings us to the third point, about requesting illustrator data. If your 'legacy system' is still stuck in warehouse mode, illustration won't be one of the fields you will have requested when you ask for data from Nielsen. The way the system works is you put in data, then you pull out the data you want. If no one wants to pull out illustrator sales data, then Nielsen has no financial incentive to link up their bibliographic illustrator data with their sales illustrator data. They'll make a one-off chart for you for a small fee, but that information won't be easily accessible on a regular basis.

Another reason Nielsen isn't very focused on illustration is because illustrated children’s books are only a tiny part of the books Nielsen deals with. The majority are works of academic non-fiction, and these often have many, and all sorts of, contributors.

Why do so few people want this illustrator sales information? If our economic value can't be assessed, we'll be forgotten by business people and written off as not contributing anything to the economy. Not even The Bookseller credited illustrators in sales charts until March of this year. You could see that Julia Donaldson was ruling the picture book sales charts, but you had no idea how The Gruffalo's illustrator Axel Scheffler's books were doing. In fact, if you entered his names into the Nielsen sales charts, he came out as quite a low moneymaker, since only the books he's written himself were calculated.

This omission plays out in real business decisions: certain airport bookshops ONLY stock books by Julia Donaldson because she's a sure-fire hit with buyers. But who's to say that these sure-fire hits aren't her books with Axel Scheffler? If Axel illustrated books with other writers, might these books sell just as well? They would have that recognisable look of Axel's that makes customers pick them up. The Bookseller have made huge strides recently in supporting illustrators and including them in their magazine. In the 15 May issue, jouralist Charlotte Eyre even commissioned a manually-compiled illustrator sales chart from Nielsen:

But this isn't the case in most media. Children's book coverage is getting smaller and smaller amounts of space in printed newspapers, and if someone wants a sales chart, they have a very limited budget and almost no space to put it in, so they're not going to go out of their way to add space for illustrator names.

When the illustrators get left out of their data, the newspapers forget illustrators have anything to do with books at all. You'll start to notice it now, mentions and reviews of picture books and highly illustrated fiction that only mention the writer's names. It trickles into the wider culture and schools only invite writers to give talks to their children, not realising how inspiring illustrators can be to getting their children reading, writing and drawing, all at the same time. (And many illustrators only survive in business with the supplement of school visit payments.)

So how do we prove our economic value? I don't know. We're not the sort of people who generally go on strike, and we don't have a union. (The Society of Authors is the closest thing we have to a union.) The thought of shelves and shelves of books without illustrations or cover art probably frightens illustrators more than it does publishers:

If we went on strike, books probably wouldn't all go blank. Publishers could probably stumble on for a couple years using in-house designers to do everything, using pre-bought typefaces, clip art and stock images. It would be ugly and start a counter-wave of self-published indie stuff, but their efforts would go on longer than illustrators could afford to sit out unemployed.

We need the help of people who know about metadata. Is that you? #PicturesMeanBusiness isn't an organised team, just a bunch of concerned people; if you're on Twitter, that's the easiest way to jump in, using the #PicturesMeanBusiness hashtag. From what I gather, Nosy Crow publishers are very up to date with digital technology, Usborne are good at crediting everyone, Glen Mehn of The Kitschies Awards has data experience, Georgina Atwell of Toppsta gave a talk on metadata at The Bookseller conference, Sara O'Conner has programming experience.

We may have a hard time solving this data problem. But we can make huge inroads into the cultural problem of illustrators not being credited, and the faster, the better. We need you book people, helping to promote illustration, where you can, right now. And it’s not only because you’re warm-hearted book lovers, it’s because you know that in this culture which relies on images more than ever, it’s our pictures that are selling your books, and you don’t want to miss any tricks: you want to sell more books. It’s business. Support our careers and help us stay in work making your books sell.


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21. brighton doodlers

Sometimes I get invited to events in Brighton and I hardly ever go, unless I make elaborate plans to stay the night, because it seems far away. But people in publishing who live in Brighton are ALWAYS making the trek up to London for evening events. I started imagining I was like one of those north Londoners who won't go to events in south London, which is just silly. I felt like a wimp. So I finally went, just for an evening.

Here's a doodle of the Dartmoor Pegasus over Brighton Pavilion. (My Seawigs and Cakes in Space co-author, Philip Reeve, created the original fat Pegasus, is from Brighton and often tells me stories about it.) First stop was Liz Pichon's house, where I got to have a peek in the writing shed where she creates the Tom Gates books! She apologised about it being messy but I said she hadn't seen my desk. Liz's books are leading the way for books for so-called 'middle grade' readers in the way they bring together text and lots and lots of drawings.

Tom Gates is right up there with Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants and if you haven't seen the books, definitely check them out. I suspect the success of Tom Gates is one of the reason our publisher was so interested in publishing my highly illustrated books with Philip. So Liz is a bit of a hero, really.

Here's Liz with her husband Mark, who's a sound engineer and does a lot of work with her on apps and things. It's great seeing such a fab creative partnership.

Next stop was Chris Riddell's house, where Liz had masks so we could dress up in Chris's 'The Doodler' Children's Laureate superhero costume.

Photo by Liz Pichon

He and his painter-printmaker wife, Jo Riddell, had a few people around to the garden for drinks to celebrate book number twelve in his Edge Chronicles series with writer Paul Stewart. (Also spot Adam Stower and Zoe Tucker.) Chris sometimes tells me he lives his social life vicariously through my blog, so hello, Chris, if you're reading this! I think being Laureate is going to mean Chris is much MUCH more social than me for the next two years.

Writer-illustrator Sue Hendra and I sneaked back in the woods behind his house to check out his studio. It was locked, but you can see another blog post I made about it here, when Chris gave me a tour.

After a lovely evening, the train ride back (full of sunburnt beachgoers) was a bit of a jolt. In fact, it was so totally undignified that it was rather hilarious. I coped by tweeting this photo:

So it CAN be done, Brighton in an evening. But I'm still tempted next time to pitch a tent on the beach.

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22. oliver and the seawigs wins a ukla award!

Yesterday was an exciting day for Oliver and the Seawigs when Oliver, Iris, Cliff the rambling isle and a jabber of Sea Monkeys picked up a UKLA Award! UKLA is the UK Literary Association and I've heard this award called 'the teacher's Carnegie' because it's judged entirely by teachers and it's a big honour to win it. Here's coverage in the Guardian:

(Read the rest of the article here.)

Even the journey to the ceremony in Nottingham felt a bit special when, in honour of Wimbledon tennis, East Midland Trains surprised everyone with complimentary strawberries.

My co-author Philip Reeve snapped pictures of me busily making a #PicturesMeanBusiness cover for my phone.

When we arrived at the National College for Teaching and Leadership, we ran into fellow Oxford University Press-published author Gill Lewis, our Seawigs publisher Liz Cross and UKLA's Joy Court (who's been very helpful with the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign).

And here's writer Jo Cotterill, and Sarah Howells from OUP who was looking after us for the event.

We were supposed to be schmoozing teachers before the ceremony but Reeve was most uncharacteristically reserved.

Here's UKLA's Lynda Graham opening the ceremony with a slide of all the shortlisted books for the three categories of awards.

We got to see teachers talk about each book and how they'd used in their classrooms and how the children had responded to them.

I loved hearing from these kids about Oliver and the Seawigs. Check out the knitted Sea Nonkey, and that boy in the middle had made a clay version of Oliver!

While Seawigs won the main 7-11 award, Heather Butler's Us Minus Mum received a special commendation for dealing with death and grief. It was great to see a special award created for that book that will be very important for specific children going through these issues.

After the ceremony, teachers came up to us afterward and raved about how important the Seawigs illustrations were to getting kids in their 7-11 age group reading and enjoying the experience. They can't get enough of quality illustrated chapter books. Philip and I didn't go into making these books because we saw a huge niche in the market - we just thought it was a great way to tell a story - but it's amazing to hear all the testimonials of how these illustrated books really hit home with kids. Philip and I took turns giving a short speech and making this drawing, and I talked a bit about #PicturesMeanBusiness and urged teachers to encourage their colleagues to talk just as much about the illustrator as the writer when they read and do class projects on books, so kids could have two sources of inspiration instead of one.

Here's Philip and Chris Haughton mucking around after the dinner UKLA laid on for us.

Huge thanks to UKLA's David Reedy, Lynda Graham and Joy Court, award sponsor MLS, all the teachers and kids who read the huge stacks of books, Marilyn Brocklehurst from Norfolk Children's Book Centre who provided books on the day, our editor Liz Cross for coming along, and Sarah Howell for being so helpful and organised! Oh, and Philip, of course for making an ace book with me. That guy constantly amazes me with the story stuff he comes up with.

If any teachers are reading this, check out my website for free printable activities to go along with our books Oliver and the Seawigs, Cakes in Space, and the upcoming Pugs of the Frozen North.

Time to use that award bowl... it's strawberry time!

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23. grass sprite

I love having a studio, but one of the problems is that when I go home, I only have my pencil case with me, none of my paints. So I recently bought a little Winsor & Newton travel watercolour set (recommended by @Jontofski) and thought I'd try to play with it a bit more when I do morning sketches. Here's a little grass sprite I came up with today:

It's the second paintings I made, after this little study of a tuft of grass:

I found the tuft in my pocket from one of my trips to visit the Reeves on Dartmoor. I love all the different kinds of grasses we find there.

And, of course, it only seems natural to attach it to one's head. I suspect the tuft started out as fake ear hair, and Philip said 'GROW UP, MCINTYRE'. My Dad, also, has never grown up; here he is in fine mossy moustache.

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24. some updates

I've just been updating my website Events page (do have a peek!), and SCBWI have just announced that Philip Reeve and I will be keynote speakers at November's conference!

In fact, there will be four keynote speakers, including Jonny Duddle and David Fickling, and there are about twenty other people speaking (some more famous than us) who could easily have stepped in!

SCBWI Conference is such a great opportunity for anyone who's starting out in children's books and wants to find out how to get in deeper, or who's been in the business for awhile and fancies mixing with company, learning some new things and sharing experiences. Here's the programme. The cost of a packed weekend is £220 for SCBWI members, £250 for non-members and you can book here. I've been to several of these conferences and they're a big part of how I got into the business.

Sometimes my books with Philip are called 'middle grade' and Philip hates that term, for good reason. So he's written a new blog post about it, and you can leave comments or tweet your thoughts to him on the subject at @philipreeve1 or leave a comment on our Reeve & McIntyre Facebook page.

Keep reading...

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25. #PicturesMeanBusiness: notes for writers and publicists

It's great having the support of writers for the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign: our previous Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman was one of the first writers to support it, Philip Ardagh asks questions when illustrator names are left out of articles featuring illustration, Joanne Harris tweeted a list about illustrators, and of course my co-author Philip Reeve has been right there with it all along. I think it adds extra weight to the arguments when writers fight for us, like we're in it together. When I first started talking about it, writers on Facebook were quick to point out how much they value their illustrators and cover artists.

But even writers who talk about the importance of crediting their team still forget to credit them at key publicity moments. Why do they do this? I think many non-illustrators in the world of publishing are completely clueless about everything related to illustration. They think it's something quickly added on at the end of the book process to make it extra-shiny. But they don't understand what illustration actually involves.

Here are a couple of real-life scenarios (genders may have been changed for anonymity):

Scene one: A writer raved about his new book cover on Twitter, even writing a detailed blog post about how much he loves the artwork and why he loves it. But he forgot to mention the name of the illustrator, much less link to her. Why? There was no lack of space to write that information, he just didn't think of it.

But isn't it obvious, to link illustrations with the person who made them? Perhaps the writer saw it like I do when someone compliments me for my outfit and I just say 'thank you', instead of telling the person who designed each item (because they didn't ask). But I still find it VERY strange when someone compliments a writer on their book cover art and they just say 'thank you' instead of saying 'Isn't it great? It's by Joe Illustrator!' In this case, the person just needed a gentle private reminder and he fixed the blog within minutes. (Funnily enough, I find myself talking a lot about my tailor to people these days when they compliment my dresses.)

Scene two: A publisher got in touch and told me a writer has been asking to have me illustrate her children's book (fiction, with chapters). I had tight commitments to do other work, but I knew the writer a little bit and thought, well, maybe I could do the work in the gap times. I read the manuscript - it was pretty good - and I could see ways I could inject a lot of extra humour into it through the pictures. I wrote back to the editor to find out what sort of deadline I'd have, and she replied, 'One month'. WHAT? Okay, so there's no way I could do that in the gaps. The designer wanted over 150 illustrations so it would've had to have been my full-time job. I wrote back saying I couldn't do it in that amount of time. We wrote back and forth a couple more times and the correspondence took about a week.

I ran into the writer at an event a couple weeks later. We had a chat about the book and I apologised for not being able to illustrate it.

'I can't believe they would only give me a month to do all the pictures', I said, with a rueful expression on my face. To my surprise - and horror - the writer smiled broadly and said,

'But isn't that great?!'


'It means the publishers really want to push my book, to get it out there!' she gushed. 'They're not going to let it sit around.' I gaped at her. This was a writer I knew had spend at least a year, possibly YEARS, preparing this manuscript, taking it to critique groups, crafting it to be just right.

'But it's not fair on the illustrator', I protested. 'Over 150 illustrations in... well, now it's three weeks, not a month'.

'But that's okay,' said the writer. 'He has a really sketchy style and he can just knock them out in no time.'

By this point I was almost on the floor, overwhelmed with grief for this poor illustrator. The writer had NO IDEA how much time and effort that illustrator might be taking to work out the layout with the designer, come up with the looks of the characters, get the drawing compositions right, etc. The illustrator might have to make five painstaking under-drawings of a picture before tracing over it in that 'sketchy' style that looks so effortless.

The book came out, the writer was thrilled with the pictures, which weren't amazing, but still surprisingly good, considering how fast they'd been done. But my heart hurt for the illustrator, I hope he hadn't had any family crises or anything during that time. He must've needed the work very badly to have agreed to that time schedule. The writer proceeded to publicise the book vigourously, never mentioning the illustrator's name unless directly asked.

I made a vow to myself that I would rather change professions before agreeing to work with that writer. And I don't think she ever had any sense that what she'd been saying to me was so horribly offensive. I later heard her saying she might self-publish and illustrate the next book herself because 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid is practically stick figures and that sells well'. ...There are stick figures and there are stick figures. I didn't even know how to respond, in any way that she could understand. If she can pull it off, more power to her, but I have my doubts.

Writers often like to cast themselves in a very romantic light. They tweet about their process, staring thoughtfully out windows, drinking too much coffee, trying to pull something from the depths of their souls. But I think this is sometimes how they understand writing and illustrating:

And they are very wrong. Here's the truth. (And I think much of this also applies to translators.)

But it's not just writers who underestimate what goes into illustration (and translation); publicists are forgetting even to include information that their books are illustrated. Publishers, why bother spending money on illustrations if you're not even going to mention them? Isn't that false advertising? You're either pretending the book isn't illustrated, or you're pretending that the writer made the illustrations. And don't say 'but the illustrator's mentioned on the back cover'. No one looks at the back cover when they're browsing online.

Fortunately we have a #PicturesMeanBusiness ally in Fiona Noble at The Bookseller. Here's her article from this week's magazine. Publicists, people WANT illustrated books. Don't be ashamed of the illustrations, don't forget about them, and certainly don't forget that it was a real person who created them. Writers, remember that illustrating may be a long, thoughtful process, too, and it's worthy of credit.

(Find out more at picturesmeanbusiness.com and browse the #PicturesMeanBusiness hash tag on Twitter.)

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